Trump's staunchest supporters alarmed by policy flip-flops

A rally for US President Donald Trump last month in Huntington Beach, California. His recent policy flip-flops have soothed the nerves of many Republicans who were worried that he was looking to upend too much of the status quo, but left his most ste
A rally for US President Donald Trump last month in Huntington Beach, California. His recent policy flip-flops have soothed the nerves of many Republicans who were worried that he was looking to upend too much of the status quo, but left his most steadfast supporters increasingly dismayed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Dismay grows over direction of presidency after he embraces positions he once scorned

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump campaigned as an outsider who would upend years of Washington orthodoxy in matters of both war and peace - an approach that helped him assemble the unconventional coalition that ultimately won him the presidency.

But in recent days, the President has done an about-face and embraced many of the policy positions he once scorned as the trappings of a foolhardy establishment, reported The Washington Post.

Mr Trump voiced support for Nato, which he called "obsolete" during the campaign. He walked back on his pledge to label China a currency manipulator and endorsed the Export-Import Bank, which he previously opposed.

He appears to have also embraced an interventionist foreign policy and has marginalised his nationalist chief strategist, Mr Steve Bannon, who clashed with his son-in-law and senior adviser, Mr Jared Kushner, a political moderate who came into the administration from Wall Street.

These and other recent flip-flops have soothed the nerves of many Republicans who were worried that he was looking to upend too much of the status quo.

But another consequence has been that his most steadfast supporters have grown increasingly dismayed by the direction of his presidency, reported Politico.

And the crux of the disillusionment stems from the belief that Trump the candidate bears little resemblance to Trump the president.

"Donald Trump dropped an emotional anchor. He captured how Americans feel," said Ms Tania Vojvodic, a Trump supporter who founded one of his first campaign volunteer networks. "We expect him to keep his word, and right now he's not keeping his word."

"I'm not so infatuated with Trump that I can't see the facts," she added. "People's belief, their trust in him, it's declining."

Mr Lee Stranahan, who as a former writer at Breitbart News once worked with Mr Bannon, said: "It was like, here's the chance to do something different. And that's why people's hopes are dashed.

"There was always the question of, Did he really believe this stuff?' Apparently, the answer is, 'Not as much as you'd like.'"

Some of Mr Trump's most stalwart supporters have also termed his bombing of Syria a betrayal and are alarmed that he has yet to follow through on some of his pledges on immigration.

But on Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer argued that it is not Mr Trump who has changed.

"If you look at what's happened, it's those entities or individuals in some cases, or issues, evolving towards the President's position," said Mr Spicer, according to The Washington Post.

A thaw in relations with Republican hawks seemed to begin in earnest last week when Mr Trump, faced with his first major foreign policy test, sided with the use of military force in Syria. That decision is one that endeared him to Republicans who had criticised his isolationist campaign rhetoric.

His successful nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and his rollback of environmental regulations are also seen by some as early wins.

But with Mr Trump, allies and adversaries alike are never sure if he will change his mind again.

"Because he has a short attention span, (Mr Trump) could easily flop back," said Mr Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist sharply critical of Mr Trump.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's staunchest supporters alarmed by policy flip-flops'. Print Edition | Subscribe